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Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Site Name Achvarasdal

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Achvarasdal House

Canmore ID 7373

Site Number NC96SE 5

NGR NC 9834 6469

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Reay
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Caithness
  • Former County Caithness

Archaeology Notes

NC96SE 5 9834 6469.

(NC 9834 6469) Brough (NR) Human Remains and Querns found (NAT)

OS 6"map, Caithness, 2nd ed., (1907)

This broch, with its entrance-passage in the ESE, has been excavated without exposing the exterior wall. The interior is 33ft in diameter with walls 13ft thick and 5ft 3ins high. From the inner end of the passage, to the right, at 19 1/2ft, measured direct, is a partly reconstructed stair chamber. There is evidence of a guard chamber in the passage. There are indications of considerable but unexcavated outbuildings.

A rotary quern and a large bottomless mortar lie in the interior of the broch. Two narrow rectangular sharpening stones are preserved at Achvarasdal Lodge.

RCAHMS 1911.

Bones, two or three human skulls and several knocking stones were found about 1870 in the interior.

Name Book 1873.

Set in a large grassy mound are the remains of a broch with the interior wall standing 1.7m high. Measuring 10.0m across the internal diameter, it has a chamber in the NE segment and an entrance 0.9m wide in the SE, where the width of the broch wall can be seen as 4.1m. No outer works could be traced. A fragment of a small quern stone still lies beside and the flag staff in the centre. The two sharpening stones formerly at Achvarasdal Lodge have been lost.

Revised at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (R D) 13 November 1964.

A solid-based broch with a checked entrance in the ESE, with signs of a blocked-up guard-cell door behind the right check. There is an interior door, probably to the mural stair in the E, and there are also traces of out-buildings. A rotary quern which lay inside the broch is now in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.

E W MacKie 1974; 1975.

(NC 9834 6469) Broch (NR)

OS 6"map, (1963)

A broch, as described by the previous authorities. No outbuilding remains can be identified in the dense scrub and grass prevailing around the site.

Visited by OS (J M) 19 August 1981.


Publication Account (2007)

NC96 3 ACHVARASDAL LODGE (‘Achvarasdal’)

NC/9834 6469

This probable solid-based broch in Reay, Caithness, stands on flat ground on top of a slight rise: it has been excavated, probably at around 1870 [1], but without exposing the exterior wallface. The structure is built of brick-like slabs of whitish sandstone and now stands some 1.60m (5ft 3in) high. It is worth noting that none of these slabs are very large; in particular there are no very large blocks in the basal course. This broch may therefore never have been very high (visited 9/7/63, 19/7/85 and 22/7/03).

The entrance is on the east-south-east and is 3.97m (13ft) long with two built door-checks 1.22m (4ft) from the exterior. No guard cell is now visible but the Commission suspected that a rebuilt part of the passage wall on the left may have been a blocked-up doorway to a guard cell. The passage is 0.84m (2ft 9in) wide at the outer end, 1.09m (3ft 7in) behind the checks and 0.76m (2ft 6in) at the inner end. It may have been substantially reconstructed after excavation as there are no bar-holes apparent now.

There is an internal doorway at 3 o'clock, which seems to lead to the mural stair, though the passage leading to this has evidently been blocked off at some stage. The secondary masonry here is difficult to unravel without clearing away the vegetation, but there is definitely a passage leading to the right (presumably approaching the stair) which has been blocked with a drystone face about 30cm in from the right edge of the doorway. Likewise there seems to be a passage leading to the left (perhaps to a stair-foot cell) which has been blocked off in a similar manner.

It is not clear whether these blocking features are ancient or were done after the 19th century excavations. By 2003 the stair doorway itself had been blocked with neatly laid stonework so none of these other blocking features – including the one described below – is now visible.

The rear wall of the intra-mural space reached by what is assumed to be the stair door (3.05m from the inner wallface) is also a secondary filling of an opening in the primary stonework of about the same width as the doorway to the interior. At first glance this looks as if it may have been a passage – a secondary entrance perhaps – running right through the wall but an examination of Dun na Maigh (NC55 1), about 44kmfurther west, reveals there a curious alcove in the rear wallface, facing the stair door. Achvarasdal Lodge probably had a similar arrangement and, since the feature has not been noted in any other brochs, one might surmise that the same architect designed both.

A huge mound surrounds the broch and has signs of many buildings which have not been excavated. In 2003 this site was much more overgrown than in 1985.

Finds: those recorded in 1909 [2] are a discoid rotary quern (found lying in the interior and now in the Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow) [4, 140], a stone mortar (not seen by the author) and 2 whetstones once preserved in the Lodge [2], but now lost [1]. There were also found in the interior at about 1870 some bones and 2 or 3 human skulls [1].


Dimensions: internal diameter 10.07m (33ft), external c. 18.00m (59ft), wall proportion c. 44.0%. In 1971 a new angle-and-distance survey of the interior wallface found that its ground plan is close to a true circle with a radius of 5.04 +/- 0.05m; the diameter would thus be 10.08m (33.05ft). This measurement surely indicates that, though the site may well indeed be "much restored" [3, 156], the basal courses at least of the broch's interior are original.

Sources: 1. NMRS site no. NC 96 SE 5: 2. RCAHMS 1911, 95, no. 353: 3. Mercer 1985, 156, no. 12: 4. MacKie 1972: 5. MacKie 1975, 230.

E W MacKie 2007


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